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tv   [untitled]    July 19, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm PDT

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of a challenge. i only saw a very small area carved out where it said this is where we're going to preserve small lots. we should be approaching every project that the d.n.a. is small grain lots and picking up on what commissioner chase just said, i think it's understanding of how to interweave the mixed use nature of what is so strong about san francisco into any of those future assumptions. that doesn't mean that we cannot build larger buildings. but the mindless aggregation of lots, oversized property assemblies s. what starts to dull our ability to continue to really celebrate what's strong about the city. there's enough said about the alleys and enough said about the small dead end streets into which come the wonderful t intersections where you see the entire block as space, as
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living space, and all of those ideas can give us impetus to do the central corridor very, very differently than only driven by large scale real estate aspirations. and i see sometimes because in the way we -- the con isn'tual stepping back around some of the principles which were presented today are not happening. we create first the big ideas and then we want to speak about alleys and pedestrian ways. i want to see that happen the other way around. i want to see a strong conceptual framework first. and then i would like to selectively fill in how we approach it. and that for me personally comes with a very, very timely analysis of what is historic architecture which we can recognize as historic architecture and what other noteworthy place-making buildings which we need to maintain and make part of the
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new setting. because i see more and more an attempt to -- and i'm not just talking about the rigor of historic preservation. but i'm really speaking about understanding the three dimensional d.n.a. of the city. which is also small scale. which is about ex-quissettely wonderful buildings of one of a kind and maintain that in whatever form we can and have it harmonize with large and newer buildings. and then i think we have a very strong journey into the future. >> thank you. commissioner wolfram. commissioner wolfram: i just wanted to layer on one other thing which there's a certain irony i guess in saying that we need to retool soma because it's actually one of the most financially successful mabeds in the whole city. with right now the highest -- commercial rents of anywhere. so i think it would be interesting to add on to this analysis or to bring into this discussion a discussion with some of the people involved in
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the companies that are so successful there. and to understand what attracts them so much this area. is it the building stock, the large floor plates, the industrial character of the buildings? is it easy access to 2 a.d., it looks raw and funky, is there something that we as planners and architects aren't even thinking about that they find so compelling? so i think they were there maybe originally because it was cheap. but it's no longer cheap. and they're still coming. so i think that would be another perspective to layer on to this. >> thank you. i really -- if i may, i really agree. i think there's an incredible richness and variety in soma already. and so maybe part of what the presentation is bringing forward is that maybe on the corners, there's an opportunity to add something to it. but not that it's taking away from what's already there. i love the variety of cultures in some jafment there's industrial. there's different classes. different races. there's an artist mentality if
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will you and the new twitters and the tech industry. so i just think there's a real -- it's a real eclectic neighborhood. and that's different than other neighborhoods in this city. so that, you know, maybe what can be brought to this and the central corridor of planning is some addition or layering on top of that. instead of a feeling that it's like a redoing of it. commissioner hasz. commissioner hasz: thank you. actually, for 10 years, i had my offices at second and brannan and know the area very well and have several restaurants down there. and all the streets with them being so busy the thing that was so special about second and brannan is we had south park. you have an internal space to go escape the rapid pace of all those major blocks. you also have the waterfront. you can walk right down and cruise along the waterfront. it's fantastic. to me, the internal escape points create the walking district. because you have people walking there. i would walk to south park all the time. just have a coffee and mellow out. and like the alleyway that
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blocks them, fourth and fifth, right next to the tennis club. that would be another perfect spot to maybe create another south park which will be by the central corridor station. in speaking toward my fellow commissioner martinez's comments on doing this south of market and not as a big bang but as -- in pieces i would love to create another south park feel. capture an entrance there with some curbs, create an internal green space and let that happen on its own. i think that that is -- you need -- you don't just need open space. you need escape, open spaces. places where people can get out of the chaos. and not hear the cars whizzing by. so that would be my suggestion to start with down there. thank you. >> commissioner sugaya. >> thank you for the presentation. i enjoyed it a lot. but i think if we come back to reality, you know, planning is politics. and planning is economics. and the aggregation of lots is
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an economic reality. because that's what developers want. and that's probably what's going to happen. i don't want it to happen but following on commissioner moore and martinez and other comments, i mean, the idea that we can somehow preserve individual lots is -- i don't know how a commission can do that. maybe we can. but when you start -- you start telling people that they can't aggregate lots in order to create their development, it's going to be extremely ditch. i don't even know if we have that kind of political backing here in this city. and also we've been -- the presentation i know was geared toward architecture and urban design. but again the land uses there that interests me a lot. we had a presentation, commissioner moore mentioned the central corridor effort
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that's going on in the planning department. and i went back and looked through some of the backgroundwork that was done for the eastern neighborhoods plan which includes the soma area. and there was a land use map that was part of that that showed a great variety of land uses in the area. and i'm afraid what's going to happen as somehow we assume that we're going to have to accommodate growth and increase the density, and i don't know where that notion comes from except from developers. and, you know, that we're going to lose all that. and it's going to be extremely difficult, i think, for us to be able to really make a huge difference in the way -- the future of soma is going to look. maybe that's too pessimistic. but i've been on this commission for six years. and i've been on the landmarks board, and i've been on the board of appeals. and i'm telling you, none of
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those bodies are able to control the kinds of things that i think need to be done. because it comes from a regulatory framework. and that's what we do. we're regulators. we have very few tools to offer incentives and to drive economics in the direction that a lot of us have been talking about. and, you know, i appreciate commissioner martinez's comments. but again, we're not in control over the pace of the development that's going to be coming if it comes at all. you kind of want to hope there's another crash in some ways to -- crash in some ways to -- and everybody is enamored with this whole thing. and it has its good parts. i mean, there's a lot more development going on on market street. everyone, i think, is pretty much enamored that it's going
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to come back. but, you know, there's criticisms. i know they're popping up about the kinds of retail uses that are going to be there. and other things like the condominium developments that are not going to be affordable. and, you know, in some ways, market has its own life. we may not like it. but there are a lot of people on market street. a lot of people. you know, i walk down market. some guy comes up and spits on my shoe and says hey, you need a shoe shine. what? you just did that, man. and there are a lot of people like that that are there. and, you know, they patronize their own things. it's not the kind of places i go to or other people. and so we label it and give it a label. but it has its own life. i don't know. eventually i suppose because of development, they'll also have to find another place to go. and it will be a neighborhood that commissioner martinez
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probably frequents more often. [laughter] because he likes bad neighborhoods. but i think -- just one last comment. one of the saviors of preservation is not having any economic development. because nobody comes in and buys buildings and tears them down. >> thank you. commissioner martinez. commissioner martinez: yeah. i think one of the most interesting parts of the city right now is sort of south of dog patch and north of -- i think it's evans. there's just a lot of people, interesting businesses. because close to the caltran station. and has -- there's a lot of interesting businesses moving in there. so that's what i mean by the uses of bad neighborhoods. it's an area, not a lot of people are paying attention to in terms of -- there's some -- there's some improvements.
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but actually more driven by the dog patch people. but i think it's one of the more interesting areas right now. i think commissioner sugaya makes a good point. i mean, that sometimes as professionals we get carried away. and the government is really limited in what it can do. we are really very limited. and maybe in certain -- in certain respects that's a good thing. sometimes. because it's really the public that creates variety. and one of the things that really is problematic is when -- is settling for mock variety instead of real variety. the whole thing where we make a big building, look like it's divide norwood 25-foot seg --
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divided into 25-foot segments. it doesn't really create real variety. and i've been spending a lot of time in mission bay and along china basin. and when you go along chin scra basin, you've got the 25-foot segments and the townhouses and they did everything the way they're supposed to do. but there is no corner grocery store running by some ethnic group. there is nothing out of place. and it really is sort of like the suburbanization of the city. it's turning the city into gated suburbs. which is too bad. i don't know. so i don't have any answers to that. but i do want to say one other thing. talking about variety. oh, you know, having dealt as a professional with the eastern neighborhood zoning, the rezoning, you know, i think there is a problem that it's already 10 years -- it's
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already out of date. i think we -- you know, i think planning has started to do this. but, you know, we really need to think about how people really work now. and how people really use public space now and semi public space now. because retail is not what it used to be. everybody knows that. with amazon and so on and so forth. you just can't -- you can't lease out retail space the way you used to. and, you know, there's no cobblers anymore. there's no shoe repair places. it just doesn't happen. and what -- where people -- what people can't get online is cafes, is restaurants, and the places where people socialize. more and more people work at home. the cafes were packed with people working in the cafe because they don't -- want to be around other people while they're working. so they don't want to work at
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home. and the poor cafe owner has to deal with these people who aren't really buying that much coffee. [laughter] and i think -- i think there's some movement toward this. that people can have home offices with an employee or two . i think we really -- zoning has gotten more and more complicated over the decades. and i really think we need to make it simpler. that's one thing. and i think we need to recognize the fact that one of the reasons for zoning was to keep noxious industries away from residential and that reason really no longer exists. we can zone areas for the kinds of industries or small industries would like to have there. but if those small industries don't compist the whole exercise is pointless. zoning really has to do something with what people are really doing. and i think we've -- we've inherited so much and the
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process takes so long we're not really accommodating where we're going to go. anyway, that's it. >> unfortunately, this room is not -- it's very difficult to have a dialogue in this room. and i feel like we should all be around a table rather than having a dialogue like this. because i would love to have conversations like this with the commissions but it's very difficult frankly. what's that? >> we should have more dinners or roundtables. >> there's a sunshine problem. i mean, that's the issue here. a lot of what you say is absolutely correct. there is this -- zoning is an incredibly blunt instrument and what we've tried to do in san francisco is take a very blunt instrument and refine it to the point where we try to control at the public sector, is incred -- incredibly details things. and it creates a sterility that you're talking about. what is -- what we can't seem to get our hands around in san francisco in my opinion is that
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the best places are the places that existed before zoning existed. and, therefore, why are we trying to control it all when the fact that that control is what created the sterility? so that may be an overly simplistic argument. because it's not possible anymore, right? because we can't -- because letting things grow organically means you're going to get block long reflecting glass that nobody wants. but at the same time, we do need to think about other tools. and we're not good at that, right? we're very good on the regulatory side. we're very good at sort of -- here's the rules. and by the way, the rules are one thing. but working and fighting over individual projects is another. but i don't think we're very good at thinking about other tools and how we work with developers and communities and architects and other forms of how the public sector can get involved in these things. we assume that we have the
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regulatory authority, and almost nothing else. the other challenge, and i think you alluded to it, is places like mission bay, part of the reason for their sterility is not just that the plan isn't quite working the way we had all hoped. but because it was all new. it was all built and relatively short period of time. i mean, the places -- i actually -- my concern about places like vancouver are that same problem. if people hold vancouver as a model for great urban development, they've done some extraordinarily good things there. but part of the issue with vancouver is because it was built so much of it was built in such a short period of time, using the same basic paradigm of the towers and the townhouses, that it becomes a little sterile, frankly, in my opinion. and so i -- there are challenges like that that we have here. but i think the thing about soma, if i can get back to the idea here, is that it is in fact -- it's history is one of great diversity. right? i'm like any other part of the -- unlike any other part of the
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city. what other part of the city do you have these impact residential enclaves in the middle of blocks that have warehouses and very wide streets? it's a very unusual kind of setup. but i think we should embrace. and i have to say it's not all small scale patterns. south of the freeway, there are huge lots. that are in fact have always been huge lots. and so -- and we do have that challenge of if we are going to accommodate any kind of reasonable growth in the city, we are going to have to grapple with this issue that in some of these places, large lots are inevitable. and i -- and we are -- i completely agree that the issue of lot aggregation is an issue. and i don't disagree that we should try to figure out a way, and we are -- we are taking small steps in that. but i also think that we have to figure out a way to deal with large footprint development. it's going to happen without us if we don't figure out a way to do it. and anyway, again, he would be
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great to have a dialogue somehow in a more congenial setting. and one of these great spaces that renee was talking about. >> show up at the same time. >> yes, it would be great to have a discussion in a different forum. but we will continue as we are. commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: thank you. i think the theme or i keep hearing about in our discussion is the large lot problem and how we're going to handle this. scompf course i agree with commissioner -- and of course i agree with commissioner martinez that sometimes even though we vary the heights, we vary setbacks and try to make them look individualized, it doesn't work. but it probably works better than the alternative of having a block building of all the same height and all the same pattern. and maybe it can be sculpted in a way with a little bit more care to make these individual parts of a development
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especially if it has finite parts. this is a very small development, broderick place, which is over on fell. and i think they did a really good job with that. not just because architecturally it fits in really well with the neighborhood. but also the finite parts of it, even though it's a little bit auto centric, it still has the smaller market. and the deli and the residential parts. and it's really not a bad place to even walk around. even though much of it is automotive. but i think it can be done. the or thing we talked about -- the other thing we talked about earlier is not calling attention to yourself is the individual building that instead of addressing the neighborhood, is addressing itself. and this is a problem we've had. it's not that everything has to blend with everything else. but i mean, prior to just the mid part of the last century, things always did sort of fit for one reason or another in
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with the neighborhoods in which they were built. and maybe if we can figure out how to make that happen again a little bit more through architecture, suggestions, or whatever we do. one of the most successful place sincere hays valley. -- successful places is hays valley. we got rid of the freeway there. and, you know, it would be really nice if south of market could return to its form being before there was a freeway going through. that's never going to happen regrettably unless we do a big dig like boston did. and even though the blocks were always very large blocks, there was more of a pattern than you had this big roadway cutting through the middle with all the supportive approach lanes and everything that have to support it. but that being said, i think we can make some progress somewhere. last sunday, i went with my daughter and we were -- she was
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looking at places to live. and we went out in the western addition in the webster area and like one street where it's a smaller street, and it's so pleasant. and then you get on to gathery or webster where they widened -- geary or webster where they widened it and it takes the pleasantness out of the neighborhood. i think that's going to be difficult. but if there is a way to somehow break blocks up a little bit, and create mid block crossings and more finite parts of the neighborhoods, it will make it a lot more pleasant. so those are my main things. and maybe we can take glues from other older cities to see what they have done in areas that are being redeveloped. >> thank you. commissioner chase. >> very briefly. because i know time is short. i want to thank director
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wolfram for bringing up the issue about large lots. because i think it has to do with the whole nature of how historically the city has had those in certain areas of south of market. and how do we capitalize on that? how do we allow that to become a form generator that helps offset in some ways the pressure of areas of some of these alleys that have a much finer grain, smaller lot size potentially, residential in nature. they may not remain residential. but to be able to help create that notion of a much more pedestrian friendly area because the streets are narrower. because the sidewalks are narrower. because the sense of being in those places are much more friendly to an individual walking down the street. as opposed to what happens on fulsome street. which is in the morning, in the
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afternoon, short of gridlock, is you know a pretty scary place. and how can both planning in terms of what happens on private lots, private development, and working within the public right of way to allow the evolution of these streets to become more hospitable. i think that we have -- we have a larger job in terms of how we move people through the city. but how in that movement do we make it less threatening to those of us who live in areas of high density and access ways to freeways? thank you. >> thank you. commissioner sugaya. commissioner sugaya: yes, i want to say something and get myself into trouble again. because the whole conversation i think up here anyway has been around what the city and the planning department and the historic preservation commission staff and commissioners, can do.
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and we've all made comments about various observations. but all from a perspective of regulatory matters. i mentioned incentives as something that we should take a look at, etc. but, you know, the other part of the equation is the private sector. and the developers and their designers and architects and that bring this stuff to us. and that we then have to react to a lot of times. and so i don't want to put all the onus on the city for the direction of south of market or the direction of any of the neighborhoods in the city or even in the region. and i think that's where the a.i.a. comes in. and other organizations like that. so thank you. >> commissioner moore. commissioner moore: in defense, i think the department has created a number of really good plans which have stake and are creating a common vision. and we are over time seeing
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three dimensional results, for example, in the market-octavia plan. there are some remarkable results but the people have stuck together, and we have used our power to create pushback to developers wanting certain things which are not really within the core philosophy of those plans. i do think as we continue to refine tools, better streets, and as the department is doing other things, it's trying to develop other additional guidelines which hopefully will bridge the understanding between professionals and people wanting to build as well as us and other commissioners in the public at large that we have a better common language to create good critique and good incentives. i think it's in the misunderstanding of what is good and what is not so good, where we are not all standing together to do better. there are other cities who have a much more clear language and pushback about what they really
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do want and don't want. i look at new york's planning commission. i think they're quite powerful. at least in the discussion of high-rise buildings. to rein in what they don't want. we are quite timid and none of us are high-rise designers here but also not giving the right guidance to things which need a little guidance. i won't mention any project where i felt there's guidance missing. so i will not get into -- get in marjorie's a.i.a. clients into any trouble. but i think there are dialogues where more pushback could have created better results. however, as a city, i think we still have a lot to lose and today's presentation was one of them where we need to basically peel back the layers of opportunities which still are there. but we need to be stronger about putting them into our con -- conceptual thinking. and one thing which we often are forced to do by the nature
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of the fast-moving approval process, we are forced to think in fragments. we are not allowed to think comprehensively. we are not allowed to meet as a group because that is against the sunshine ordinance. and i believe that we all would add and bring more to it if we could step back and look at a problem in a larger context. but again, the nature of how we do things doesn't allow us to do that. and i strongly encourage us to use tools as they were shown today including some other opportunities we talked about earlier to do that more. that includes the discussion with the historic preservation commission. because i do not want to just read your recommendation two minutes before we make a decision. but i like to really think about what you think in order to do it better. >> thank you. i believe that's it for commissioner comments. i want to ask if either staff or renee in particular has any closing thoughts.
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and then maybe some subset of us, not to violate the brown act, can have a conversation in the hallway or in another forum that's a little bit more friendly, i think than this room. >> not a quorum. >> not a quorum. >> i have to go. pardon me. i thought we were going to be out. >> it means that the quorum is -- >> ok. so let's adjourn the meeting. >> we will adjourn the meeting. >> thank you. >> ok. thank you, everyone. we will adjourn the meeting. but then we can continue informally. >> informally. >> we might be able to continue just discussing, you have no ability to make any changes or anything as a body. >> i might recommend just some closing statements either from closing statements either from staff or renee and then i think